I want to make sure to get tactical and practical every few posts. This is Tip #27, but I’m publishing it first, out of sequence, because I think it’s so provocative.
First the rule: then examples: then explanation. Here we go.
Rule 27a: get rid of the verb "to be" in all its forms;
Rule 27b: speak only in the first person, or in the third person impersonal.
That may sound a little weird; let me give you some examples.
Instead of, "That was a lousy movie," say, "I didn’t like that movie." (rule 27a)
Instead of, "You’re not getting my point," say, "what we have here is a failure to communicate." (rule 27b)
Instead of, "It will not be acceptable to them," say, "I’m concerned about the odds of them accepting it." (rule 27a, 27b)
Preventig Useless Conflicts
These simple rules help prevent useless conflict. 27a (if you’ll pardon some philosophical jargon) basically says "all ‘is’ statements are metaphysical, and unprovable." They are bald assertions with the potential to inflame argument rather than to help collaboration.
27b helps us remember that the only inarguable statements we can make are those about our own feelings, or about inanimate objects. Statements about "you" or "him" invite unnecessary confrontation, because someone so inclined can read blame or judgment into it.
Combined, the two rules make us speak in a way that takes responsibility, and invites others to do the same. At the extreme, "You’re an idiot!" becomes "wow, we really see this differently, don’t we? Tell me more about your view?"
Then, as Portnoy’s shrink finally said, perhaps we can begin.
Full disclosure: I didn’t invent this, I heard it—as best I can recall—about 15 years ago on National Public Radio, and can’t recall who the originator was. I’d be grateful if anyone knows the origin.